Regulating Self-Regulation? The Politics and Effects of Mandatory CSR Disclosure in Comparison
40 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2017
Date Written: February 28, 2017
The literature on new forms of governance suggests important trade-offs regarding the role of government in relation to corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. Theories associate state regulation with clear minimum standards and high compliance, but also suggest advantages of self-regulatory approaches that allow greater flexibility and support best-practices. Given these potential trade-offs, France, Denmark, and the UK were pioneers of a hybrid approach: mandatory non-financial disclosure (NFD). This article shows that despite the different motivations for mandatory NFD in these countries, the disclosure requirements are “soft” and flexible – acknowledging demands from business “that one size regulation doesn’t fit all.” The article further examines the effects of these regulations on CSR activities in 24 OECD countries using the Asset4 ESG database. Our analysis shows that firms in countries with mandatory non-financial disclosure adopt significantly more CSR activities. However, our analysis also highlights that mandatory disclosure decreases the variance between firm activities, contrary to arguments about flexibility. Furthermore, it does not lead to a decline in corporate irresponsibility. These results have implications for our understanding of regulatory trade-offs and how to promote more effective forms of CSR.
Keywords: Mandatory Disclosure, Corporate Social Responsibility, Private Governance, Regulation, Government
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